Monday, March 16, 2020

How to Cut your Marketing Agency Budget the Smart Way


When economic times are uncertain, many companies look for areas in which they can reduce their budget. The area that tends to get the brunt of the cuts is marketing, especially if you are using a marketing agency. Companies may look to bring more of their marketing work in-house or pull back on the overall marketing budget. I'm not advocating that companies should cut their marketing budget. In economic downturns, companies should put a higher focus on marketing. But, if you're in a situation in which you don't have a choice, be smart about how you decide to cut your marketing agency budget. Work with your agency and ask questions to find the right solution. The more you understand about the strategy, the smarter decisions you can make for your budget. 

The sections below examine two categories. The first based on an understanding of the strategy and tactics the agency is running. The second focuses on more tactical and practical checks that can impact what you are paying.

Strategy and Goals



Are You Aligned on Goals?


Most agencies work with clients to create an annual marketing plan. They base the strategy and plans on the company’s overall business goals. But, situations might cause your company to change its goals. In these cases, you need to keep your agency updated so you’re all on the same page. 

If your business goals change enough to affect your current marketing strategy, the agency needs to adjust its plans. This is also a good opportunity to lay out any new budget constraints. But, allow them to propose additional tactics that might be effective enough to justify a higher budget.

Even if your goals haven’t changed, make sure your agency’s work is still laser-focused. Ask how each program contributes to your goals and how they work together in the full strategy. If they’ve started drifting away from your goal, you need to rein them and your budget back in now. 

Do You Understand How the Marketing Tactics Work Together?


Image by Wynn Pointaux from Pixabay
When your agency developed the initial (or annual) strategy and brand messaging, did you understand the full plan? All the tactics they include work together to get the best results. For example, blog posts they write serve multiple purposes. For SEO, the posts add new content to the site and increase search rankings for specific keywords. For the customer experience, they answer customer questions or solve their problems. For thought leadership, they show your industry expertise and build your credibility.

This strategy built the foundation for the program the agency is running. Beth Kapes, president of Cleveland-based Moving Words Into Action, understands better than most the importance of the strategy. Many companies call her in to fix programs in which there was no initial strategy or the companies drifted away from the plan. She offers this advice: 


From a budget standpoint, each of the tactics has a cost. But, the tactics work together to reinforce the strategy. So cutting a whole tactic (i.e. blog posts, emails, social media, etc.) can have a bigger effect on the whole program. You need to understand the different ways each tactic is benefiting you. That's not to say if you stop or slow down on one thing, it all collapses. But, knowing how it affects the full program helps you make a better decision. And, if you get to the point where you need to call Beth to get your program back on track, you'll be adding more costs from what you're trying to reduce.

Is the Work Itself Defined?


The work itself is sometimes an area where companies like to let the agency just do what they do. That makes sense. That’s why you hired them. But, be sure you understand what they include with certain jobs. 

“Optimization” is a word agencies use that can be vague. Search engine optimization (SEO) and website optimization are two examples. There are specific tasks for these that the agency should be willing to go over with you. Are they performing the same tasks every month or are they prioritizing a large list of tasks? How are they showing you that the work they are doing is effective?  

There is also usually a category of Marketing Management (or similar) which are the charges for the miscellaneous tasks for the account manager. It includes client calls/meetings, reporting, budget management, and more. It can be a bit of a catch-all for things that don’t fit under specific projects or monthly tasks. Have them define what this category includes and their process if they run out of budget.

Are They Delivering Results?


Image by GraphicMama-team from Pixabay
Results aren't a cost, but it is a check to show the agency is being effective for the money you’re paying. Not every program is going to give you results right away. Some tactics may not be consistent from month to month. Find out what you should expect each month and what triggers the agency to know they need to adjust a program. Understand what steps the agency can take to adjust underperforming programs (tactics, personnel, etc.) and if that will affect your budget. 

Are you getting reports of the results as often as you need them? These are generally monthly reports or dashboards. Work with the agency on what they should be reporting. It should be based on what you (or your boss) need to see to justify the budget. Don’t take standardized reporting if it doesn’t give you the information you need. Depending on how long you've been running the program, the data may show tactics that can easily be adjusted from a budget standpoint.

Tactical and Practical


Image by GraphicMama-team from Pixabay

Who’s Doing the Work? 


Internal Employees

Your main contact is the account manager. He/She might be your only contact, but it’s rare that others aren’t working on different aspects of your account. Some information you should know:

  • Who’s doing what?
    • What is the level of experience for each person working on your account?
    • Does the agency charge differently for different employees?
      • If so, how is this determined (employee level, type of work, etc.)?
      • The agency should be transparent in how they charge.
  • If there’s a personnel change, how does that affect the work they do for you? 
    • Are you notified?
    • Are there changes in billing if there’s a personnel change? 
    • If there’s a gap in hiring, who’s doing the work (if anyone)?

3rd Party Resources

In some cases, agencies may use freelancers or contractors for aspects of your work. Some may be using trusted people they’ve worked with for years. But, some may be hiring freelancers from sources like Upwork for each client and/or job. There’s nothing wrong with that, but finding resources from these types of services may be something you can do internally to save money.
Regardless of their sources, it’s important you know if the agency is marking up the price. This is standard, but you need to know how much. Are they marking it up by a certain percentage or are they charging you the same rates as an internal employee? Again, this may be an opportunity to save a considerable amount of money by doing it in-house. That takes time, so you may be willing to pay the extra amount to have the agency do the legwork.

How Are You Charged?


Most agencies tend to charge in three ways, and it can be a combination. All are based on the time spent doing the work. An hourly cost is simply $X per hour in which the agency charges based on actual time spent. Monthly retainer costs are specified monthly recurring charges based on a set amount of time allocated to spend on a task. Project-based costs are one price for the whole project. These are for projects that have a defined start and end the costs are determined by the number of hours they expect to work on the project. 

While those are straightforward, make sure you understand the following:

  • Are you charged the full amount even if they don’t use all the time allocated?
    • Does any unused budget roll over to the next billing period?
  • What happens if they run out of budgeted time? 
    • Are you charged for extra time?
    • Do they stop the work and pick up with the next billing period? 
    • Do they notify you beforehand in either scenario?

Agency Tools for your Account


Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay
Agencies use many tools to run their businesses and to benefit their clients. Many of the costs are passed on to you, sometimes at a lower shared cost if used for many clients. Understand what you're paying and if the charges will fluctuate (if add or removing other clients) or static. Also, ask about their process for ensuring charges are removed from the invoice if they stop using a certain tool.

These include:

  • Software Tools: Some of the tasks may have specific tools that make their work more efficient or are just necessities. Examples may include SEMRush or AHRefs for search engine optimization, HubSpot for marketing automation/blogs/email, or separate email tools like Mailchimp. 
  • Website Tools: If the agency developed and manages your website, there may be extra costs. These include hosting, plug-ins used on the site, domain renewals and more. 
  • Overhead Items: These can be tools like their conference call service (yep, some agencies bill that to clients) and video conferencing services. Find out any other miscellaneous costs that will be on your invoice. There may be opportunities to save costs here by using tools you may already have access to.
  • Marked Up Items: As mentioned above with third party resources, most agencies mark up these costs. This also includes handling working with outside vendors like printers, third party web hosters, and more. The cost generally is for their time. If you want to avoid those costs, you can take on those tasks. Again, it’s time you then have to spend which may be worth the extra cost.  

Make sure you know what to expect to see on your invoice. But, if you don’t know what a charge is, ask them. And if you need them to label things a certain way, they can do that too.

These are the ways you can reduce your marketing agency budget without cutting your marketing success. The biggest key to getting to the price you need is open communication with your main contact. Along with getting the budget that you’re comfortable with, you’ll also build a better, cost-effective relationship with your agency.

What other tips can you share for reducing marketing agency costs? Tell us in the comments below.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Beware! The Best Concert Year in Decades Will Kill Rock Music


2020 is turning out to be an incredible year for rock concerts. It may be the best year for concerts since the early ‘90s. Everyone you can think of is out there (with the exceptions of Van Halen and Ozzy Osbourne who have health issues). Every rock music fan should be in our glory. So why do I think 2020 might kill rock music once and for all? Is it too much of a good thing? 

There’s a perfect storm brewing that could have a huge effect on the future of rock concerts. 

Every Band is Touring 



Like I said above, it seems like every band is touring this year. It kicked off with Motley Crue’s reunion tour announcement that had die-hard fans on the edge of their seats. Not only a new tour but a stadium tour with Def Leppard, Poison and Joan Jett. Tickets went on sale and sold quickly (more on that shortly). Since then, there have been multiple tours announced every week:
  • Reunion Tours: Motley Crue, Poison, The Black Crowes, Rage Against the Machine
  • Farewell Tours: KISS, Elton John, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rolling Stones (not billed as a farewell, but let’s face it, they’re likely not making it back to most of the cities on this tour again)
  • Vegas Residencies: Aerosmith (beyond highly recommended!), Scorpions with Queensryche
  • Festivals (A few featuring Metallica headlining two nights)
  • Cruises
Oh, and there are still tours to be announced (I’m looking at you, AC/DC!).

Higher Ticket Prices


(Source: Terminal Tower Cle Twitter page)
I remember the first time I went to see the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd (separately) in concert in 1994. Tickets were in the $50 range for field seats, and that was considered outrageous then. Not long after, The Eagles reunited and charged $80 per ticket! That one was too rich for my blood back then. Fast forward to 2019 when the average ticket price was $96.17. Think we might be capping out on pricing? Live Nation and Ticketmaster think that ticket prices are undervalued and an "incredible bargain" with fans willing to pay a lot more. We’re seeing that philosophy turning into reality this year. How much are you willing to pay?

Shady Ticket Practices



On top of everyone touring, most are teaming up for two, three or four band events. Great! Better value. We all win, right? Well, here’s the catch. Most are playing venues above what they should be playing. Sorry, but other than the Rolling Stones, there shouldn’t be any stadium tours. Motley Crue, Def Leppard and Poison would have had trouble selling out a stadium in the ’80s. Yes, they’ve sold a lot of tickets, but have they really? Again, more on that in a minute.

The Sammy Hagar/Whitesnake/Night Ranger and Alice Cooper/Tesla/Lita Ford shows are playing amphitheaters that none of them have played in probably 20 years. Why? Because they can offer lawn seats at really good prices. Don’t want to sit on the lawn? You can pay the overinflated pavilion seat prices. Tickets for the Alice Cooper concert are ~$45 higher than last summer’s show at a smaller venue (comparable seats). Two tickets including the service fees and $50 paved parking (the lowest-priced paid parking; free parking is available, but the difference in time of getting out of the venue can literally be 2-3 hours) came out to just under $400. I couldn’t justify that cost and walked away without buying them. I checked recently (about a month after they went on sale) and there are A LOT of pavilion seats available still. 

StubHub and the Secondary Ticket Market



Remember when scalping tickets was illegal? Now it’s big business. Resale sites like StubHub are selling tickets at ridiculous prices. Ticketmaster and artists are cashing in by transferring batches of tickets from public sale to sell on StubHub...before you have a chance to buy them. Billboard published an article with proof from a recorded phone call in which Ticketmaster was taking thousands of Metallica tickets and putting them directly into StubHub resale (fraud anyone?). They justify it by saying that artists aren’t able to get true market value for their tickets through regular ticket sales. 

If you think this is an isolated case, take a look at almost any Ticketmaster concert and see how many tickets are available for resale. Below is a screenshot of Motley Crue tickets available for their Cleveland concert. See all the red dots? Those are resale tickets. So much for the great ticket sales… The good news is that when they don’t sell, a lot of people may be able to get a really good deal on the day of the show (or so I’m hoping!). 


New Ticket Price Variables


On top of raising ticket prices, Ticketmaster is following the pricing strategy of another fan-favorite industry...airline tickets. Many variables go into airline prices and Ticketmaster sees the opportunity to capitalize:

  • Platinum Tickets: What’s more fun (read as shady) than overpriced tickets? Overpriced “Platinum Tickets” that fluctuate due to demand! According to Ticketmaster, this will detract scalpers from getting the best seats. They say they’re taking 10% of the seats (the good seats) and adjusting the prices live based on demand. They believe they’re standing up for the artists so that the money goes to them. Maybe, but the money’s still coming from fans. And I’m sure Ticketmaster is getting a nice chunk of it too. See a seat for the $129 standard ticket price? Blink and now it’s $249. Blink again and it’s $479...and up and up.

    I watched this while I was trying to get tickets to Sammy Hagar/Whitesnake/Night Ranger. I couldn’t figure out what the standard price was, so I tweeted:


    I got no reply (shocker…). Rage Against the Machine felt the rage of their fans due to this (pun intended!). They actually did something good(ish) given the circumstances. They are donating any amount paid over the standard ticket price to charity. But, it confused fans who just saw huge ticket prices. Tom Morello took to Twitter to answer fans’ frustrations and explain the process. That went about as well as you would expect and Morello came off more annoyed than helpful.

    The problem is that while we hate scalping, what we really hate is paying outrageous ticket prices. This program might keep some tickets away from scalpers. But if the fans have to pay the same inflated ticket price anyway, we lose. So, Ticketmaster and the bands may as well be scalping their own tickets.
  • Aisle Seats: Want to buy a ticket for an aisle seat? Like some flights, that will be an extra $10. Congrats, you get to pay extra to move every time someone else in the row wants to go to the bathroom or get another beer.
  • Day of the Concert: You know how you always wish that big show was on a Saturday instead of the middle of the week? Now you’ll get to pay extra for that luxury (that you have no control over). Ticketmaster plans to fluctuate ticket prices based on the day of the concert.

Presales and VIP Packages



Ticketmaster pricing practices aren’t the only things standing in your way. Remember when ticket presales helped the bands’ biggest fans, usually fan club members? Now there are presales for fan clubs, credit cards, sponsors, radio stations, Live Nation, etc. Especially with package tours, there may be three or four fan clubs with presale tickets for one show. It’s very easy to get a presale code. There are only so many “good” seats available with each presale. But as a whole, they’re taking a bigger chunk of seats. So what’s available when the regular tickets go on sale? Your guess is as good as mine. To be fair though, I’ve fared better in a lot of cases with general public ticket sales than presales (but not always). 

What else is pulling away from the good seats? VIP packages. Pay a lot more and get a meet and greet with the band and guaranteed tickets in a certain section or row. The bands say they have to offer these packages to make money...and much of the money goes back into the tour. They don’t make money from CD sales any more so this helps. I get that. If I had the extra cash lying around, I’d go VIP for one or two of my favorite bands. For those of you that do buy them, I hope the experience is worth it and the band members are cool (I know not all are). 

Is It Live?



When you buy a ticket to see your favorite rock band in concert, what’s the one expectation you have? That they’re actually playing live, right? We know pop artists are playing to tracks and tend to lip-sync, but that’s NOT ok in the rock world. And it shouldn’t be. But, it’s becoming a point of discussion more and more. There are bands we know are lip-syncing and/or playing to tracks. KISS is clearly lip-syncing on the End of the Road tour and Motley Crue has admitted to using backing tracks. For that reason, I skipped KISS’s last appearance in Cleveland and won’t be going to see Motley Crue’s reunion tour. I can’t justify paying hundreds of dollars to see a band not play. Yes, the spectacle might be fun, but I’ve seen both bands before back when they were playing (they were playing back then, right? Right?...RIGHT???)

It’s a growing issue and Eddie Trunk brings it up almost daily on social media or his radio shows. Bands have even talked about other bands not playing live in concerts. The problem is that nobody will name names. I understand in Trunk’s case as he relies on interviewing the bands to make a living. Start mentioning names and that could dry up for him fast. But, nobody will stop until they are specifically called out. As a fan who can’t go to every concert I want to, I’d like to know who’s actually performing and who’s not. That will decide where my money goes.

The Future of Rock Concerts

With so many concerts at such high prices, most of us won't be able to go to all. We’ll make hard decisions and skip some shows we want to see. As a result, there will be concerts that will not sell enough tickets. Will promoters cancel shows if it doesn't sell well? Probably. Justin Bieber is likely to cancel Cleveland and Columbus stadium dates. They didn’t even put the tickets on sale. I know...I laughed too when I heard. But, that might happen to any of the rock bands.  In fact, Guns ‘n’ Roses are struggling to sell tickets in Toronto.  

If tickets don’t sell the secondary market will also struggle. Ok, this may not be a bad thing. It might even be good for fans to take advantage of LOWER ticket prices if sellers end up needing to unload them. 

Concert promoters will chalk up cancelations or lack of ticket sales to the bands not being in demand or oversaturation of the concert market. They’ll skirt any talk of overpriced tickets or booking bands in the wrong venues. 

The long term effects are what I’m worried about. I believe the bands that don’t sell this year are going to have a hard time getting support for their next tours. The result will be fewer rock bands on tour. This could have residual effects on newer bands and bands that aren’t even on tour this year. Promoters may be less likely to take a chance on them. Promoters will focus on the artists (of any genre) that do sell. And if the concert circuit dries up, many of the bands won’t be able to sustain themselves. 


On the flip side, if the bands sell enough tickets to prove me wrong that would mean that Ticketmaster is right about people being willing to pay higher prices. And next year’s tickets will be even more expensive. Maybe it’ll just be the end of me going to most of the concerts...lol. 

What’s your take? Where do you think this is all heading? Is there a “happily ever after” here that I’m not seeing? Is there a way we can all benefit? Tell me in the comments. Until then, enjoy the concerts you go to and rock on! Thanks for reading.


Motley Crue Photo  (Copyright 2008) Courtesy of Rukes.com Photography by Drew Ressler Creative Commons 2.0

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Marketing Rebellion: Are You Ready for the Revolution?


Marketing Rebellion Cover

In 1991, the music industry went through a major rebellion. In the late 1980’s, “hair metal” bands like Bon Jovi, Poison, Warrant and Ratt ruled the radio and MTV. The more success they found, the more new bands copied their sounds and looks. But, the music got worse and the looks and gimmicks got more ridiculous. The public got fed up with this bloated music scene, and it all came crashing down. With the release of Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit," fans seemed to switch their alliances overnight. Gone were the “hair metal” bands and in came grunge bands. The songs were simpler and stripped-down and focused on the realities of what the bands were feeling. Kids better related to the songs as they described what they were going through in their lives. 

The signs were there for the “hair metal” bands. The copycat bands focused more on the flash and fashion that had helped make the earlier bands successful. They stopped paying attention to changing musical tastes and the integrity of the music. That’s what really drove the musical revolution. We’re seeing a similar trend now in marketing. We’re creating copycat content and force-feeding it to customers instead of focusing on their needs. We’re hitting the same tipping point as the “hair metal” bands. Marketing consultant, speaker and author, Mark Schaefer is seeing the shift and discusses it in his book, “Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins.” This post examines the book and a Content Marketing World book club discussion with Schaefer.



The End of Control


How did we get here? We continue to do the things our customers hate. People don’t want to see ads. With radio, people change the channel during commercials. With TV, people either change channels or fast forward through them. With computers, people install pop-up and ad blockers. Some even pay for ad-free tiers of streaming music. So what do we do as marketers? We spend more time trying to get past the technology to force people to see our ads than trying to actually help them. 

Why is it so hard for us to listen to our customers and stop doing the things they hate? According to Schaefer, one reason is that we have a comfort in being able to measure these tactics. When metrics show declining performance, we tend to tweak the program rather than make real improvements. Bigger changes take us into the unknown and could mean implementing tactics that aren’t as measurable. We have to learn to be comfortable with this.  

In addition to measuring, these tactics feel more tangible. We can show an ad we created and have the feeling that we did something. The creation becomes the end goal rather than the means of reaching the actual business goal we’re working towards (paraphrased from Doug Kessler’s Content Marketing World 2019 presentation). 

Ultimately, marketers have lost control. The book points to a McKinsey report (from 2009!) that shows “two-thirds of the touchpoints during the evaluation phase of a purchase involve human-driven marketing activities like internet reviews, social media conversations, and word-of-mouth recommendations from friends, family, and online experts.” Only one-third of the marketing they pay attention to comes from us. Customers are now in control. What does that mean for marketers? We must be more human.

Marketers Are Lost


As marketers, we’re paying close attention to the changes in marketing trends and tools, but we’re missing the customer evolution. Our perception of what we think is effective vs. what customers are experiencing is way off. Customer loyalty barely exists and trust in brands is at an all-time low. 

Five factors are contributing to this situation:
    Mark Schaefer
  1. Crushing Technological Change: The pace of change and the amount of data are overwhelming. We constantly feel behind. 
  2. Over-reliance on Technology and Automation: We’re losing track that our customers are humans and not data points. With more technology and tools, we opt for better efficiency over better experience.
  3. Organizational Paralysis: Companies continue to do things that are no longer working. Like above, instead of making changes, we tweak programs and budgets. We don’t stop to look to see what’s changing and how we need to adapt to these changes.
  4. The Comfort of Measurement: We need to move away from metrics that we know we can get and experiment in areas where the metrics may be less clear.
  5. Tech is Changing Consumer Behavior Rapidly: As technology is changing how we market, it’s also changing our customers’ behaviors. Hyper-empowered customers are less loyal, more informed and less trusting of customers. What worked in marketing 10 years ago, won’t always work now.

Given these conditions, how can marketers continue to be effective? How can we make any type of long term plans if everything is going to change so quickly? The book points to Jeff Bezo’s approach with Amazon. Instead of worrying about what’s going to change in the next 10 years, he focuses on what’s NOT going to change. They build their business strategy around the things that will be stable over time. In Amazon’s case, they know customers will always want low prices, fast delivery and a wide selection. These are the human needs they build around. They develop the strategy and create or use the technology and tools that help them deliver. They don’t build a strategy based on using tools. Focusing on being human and relating to humans will make companies more successful.

The Most Human Companies Wins


Let’s be clear here. Marketing technology is not causing issues. Technology is a great thing when it can remove friction and barriers with our customers. Misusing technology is the issue. Here are ways in which we misuse technology to disrespect customers:
  • The Cycle of Annoyance: Downloading content doesn’t mean a customer wants a windfall of emails. How many times have you received an email, or worse, a phone call minutes after filling out a form?
  • Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should: Don’t put tactics in place tactics based on what statistics tell you works instead of what we know customers want. For example, we’ve all heard that the data says pop-ups are effective. But even if you’re getting a 6% click rate, you’re still annoying 94% of your website visitors. 
  • Technology Is Not the “Easy Button”: Online conversations are ok, but can’t replace face to face. Face to face still provides tidbits of info that you’d never get through online surveys and chats. Go on sales visits. Take part in sales calls. What can you learn from tech support calls and field visits?
  • The Uninvited Guest: These are the programmatic ads, spammy emails, robocalls and other interruptions that customers hate.

How do we keep from losing the human touch? According to Schaefer, “Great marketing builds an emotional connection to customers in some way...when we become obsessed with technology, we lose focus on emotion...If you’re not in the business of creating emotion, you’re not in marketing, you’re in sales. You’re just trying to move merchandise.” 

I Love the Hands that Made It


“I love the hands that made it” may be the most memorable quote and story from the book. It typifies how some brands will be able to be successful. In this example, Schaefer explains that a friend had a stack of handcrafted soaps. She explained she didn’t necessarily love the brand but loved the hands that made it. She knew the story of the local soap company and its founders. Like her, the owners want to make the world a nicer place to live. She believes in their mission and wants to support them.

How can other brands exemplify this type of humanity? One way is to be fans of your fans and make them the hero of your stories. That means understanding who your fans are and what’s important to them. How do their values align with your brand? How can you make them feel good by buying your products? These are the types of customers that are happy to tell your story to everyone they know.


Risks and Pitfalls


Becoming a more human company is not easy, especially for well-established companies. According to Schaefer, companies need to distinguish between what they “think” it means to be human and what it actually means. Are they practicing what they preach? While authenticity is important, many customers would settle for companies just being honest. Shaefer explains that being human must be in the company’s DNA. If it’s not, customers may not believe it. Or, worse, that can cause a backlash or breach of trust that can take years to fix.

Where does that leave brands that have questionable pasts or have never shown a human side? Shaefer isn’t sure if they can make a pivot to be more human. At the very least, it will take a lot of time and, in some cases, a culture change within the company. But, it may be worth the effort if it’s something they believe.

Marketing Rebellion offers more details with more examples of how marketing is shifting. Shaefer provides a thought-provoking approach for you to examine your marketing to be more human and effective. It’s had the most impact on my marketing over the last year and I can’t recommend it highly enough. 

Thanks for reading and please share your comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this approach. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Woodstock of Marketing Conferences: A Recap of Content Marketing World 2019


Music festivals are all the rage right now. The concept is pretty simple. Get a few days’ worth of musical acts, promote it to their fans and then make money. Hit the right mix of artists at the right time for the right causes and your festival will be legendary. I’m talking about events like Woodstock and Live Aid. The key is the audience. The rock music community is an especially tight knit and accepting group. This community is a big part of what makes festivals so successful.

In not too much of a stretch, marketing conferences are our festivals. And the Woodstock of marketing conferences is Content Marketing World. But instead of Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Janis Joplin; we have Joe Pulizzi, Robert Rose, Tamsen Webster, and…Henry Rollins (whose band played at Woodstock 94!). They, and so many more, brought their greatest hits and newest insights to keep us entertained and intrigued for four days. I can’t cover everything, but here are the most memorable performances and takeaways that will drive my content marketing for the next year.

The Star-Spangled Banner (Jimi Hendrix)


Content Marketing Stats 2019

While Jimi Hendrix’s closing set at Woodstock included this iconic performance, Robert Rose’s opening keynote set the tone for the days to come. Previewing the latest research from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, Rose highlighted the following:
  • 51% have a small content marketing group servicing the entire company
  • 41% have a formal content marketing strategy – the key differentiator for companies showing content marketing success
  • 61% say their biggest content marketing challenge is coordinating silos
  • 57% are unsure whether they have measured ROI
  • 88% put audience information needs above all else

We’re moving in the right direction, but we still have work to do. He explained that in a crowd, you tend pick out certain people you find familiar. We need to set the expectations and context for our content so our customers will expect to see it. The right content will have people looking for it.

I Can’t Explain (The Who)


Content Marketing World Joe Pulizzi Presentation Illustration
Illustration by Kingman Ink
Joe Pulizzi presented 7 Content Marketing Laws for the Next Decade. I won’t go through all here, but the first law is that you need to explain what you’re doing to those that control the budget. If they have no clue what you’re doing, they’ll cut the budget. Not only explain what you’re doing, but why. They need to understand the logic, the goals and the ultimate payoff.

Even more than explaining why, you need to be able to say no to requests that don’t fall within your content marketing strategy. Pulizzi said, “You know you’re right. You have the strategy. You’ve done the work. Stick by it like your life depends on it.”

This also means you have to explain that content isn’t a campaign. It’s an ongoing process. It’s also a long-term play with at least 18 months before you show a return. Our only goal is to create better customers who stay longer.

Soul Sacrifice (Santana)


Content Marketing World Stage

Pulizzi also stressed that you need to build your audience by focusing on one thing. Sacrifice the things you don’t do well to do one thing great. Once you build a loyal audience, then you can diversify to another content platform. Pulizzi discussed MailChimp who launched 12-13 programs at the same time. Most likely, they will fail because they’re trying to do too many things at once.

Peter Gartland and Andrew Pickering, aka Andrew and Pete, reinforced this point with their 90/10 rule. They stated that you should spend 90% of your time doing the one thing you do remarkably well. Use the remaining 10% for experimenting.

If you don’t know what content to focus on, look for reaction spikes. Focus on the content to which your audience is reacting. Better yet, if you know why they’re reacting, you know how to focus your marketing efforts.

Green River (Creedence Clearwater Revival)



I find myself going back to Tamsen Webster’s keynote presentation more than any other She explained how to get the green light from customers with our content. It starts with understanding the mindset of most people. In general, we all believe that we’re smart, capable and good. We need our messaging to reinforce these beliefs.
Getting the green light involves three customer statements:
  • I want it. It’s hard to get people to unwant things. It’s also hard to get people to want things they don’t want. Simply telling people to buy your product isn’t effective.
  • I believe it. Most people are more persuaded by their own reasons more than those told to them by others. We may get a person to take an action (one time), but the key is getting them to change (continually doing the new action).
  • It makes me right. Validate what people already want and believe to create the change.

We are not rational, we rationalize. Our brains supply stories that are consistent with us being smart, capable and good. Webster gave the example of people who successfully lost weight through Weight Watchers. Those who thought they were good, capable and smart lost weight because it validated their wants and beliefs. Those that struggled thought they would become good, capable and smart when they lost the weight.

We need to change from saying, “you’re doing it wrong, so do this with my product,” to building on our customers’ beliefs. How?
  • Start with what your customers want
  • Find what’s right in what’s wrong. How can you align the action you want them to take with something they already believe?
  • Give them a problem they can solve. Success drives engagement, not happiness
  • Let them come to your conclusion. Use their reasoning to validate yours. To build engagement, solve for success

You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now (Johnny Winter)


Content Marketing World Doug Kessler Slide

Doug Kessler announced great news! We’ve won the great content marketing revolution! But now, marketing has transitioned to an operational mode. This has led to two major problems:
  • Content has become the goal instead of the means to the actual business goals
  • Brands have become soulless, content-spewing zombies

Kessler’s solution is to revisit the oldest thing in marketing: the galvanizing story. He defines the galvanizing story as a “clear, compelling, structured narrative at the heart of your brand that unites everything you do and say.” The purpose is to shock your customers into action. The galvanizing story takes your customer through the pain of the inevitable change they are facing to see the new opportunity. The story will lead them to overcome the obstacle that is holding them back from taking advantage of the brand new world.

With a Little Help from my Friends (Joe Cocker)


Content Marketing World Crystal Ball

Like Woodstock, the audience (attendees) is as important as the bands (speakers). We refer to this annual event as a family reunion because we get to see each other in person. Our “family” grows every year as more of us meet and talk about our biggest challenges and help each other out. The networking and these conversations are as valuable as the sessions, if not more so. Our community is the reason I believe Content Marketing World is the best marketing conference available.

No Mediocre Content, Ever. (Henry Rollins)


Content Marketing World Henry Rollins Presentation Illustration
Illustration by Kingman Ink
Ok, this header isn’t a song featured at Woodstock. But it is the single sentence that stands out above all if I had to narrow everything down to one. The intensity and passion in which Rollins attacks his experiences is infectious. I’m not saying we have to go to the death-defying extremes that he does. But if you heard his talk and you weren’t motivated by it, you’re simply in the wrong business.

Another Content Marketing World has come and gone. It always goes too fast, but the real fun is implementing everything we learn. It’s not always easy as we get thrust back into our daily grinds without a clear point to start putting in new ideas. The key is to just start. Take a few hours to look at your projects and reassess them based on your new knowledge. What can you adjust and update? What do you need to start doing? Better yet, what can you stop doing? I’m making a more concerted effort than ever before not to get sucked back into the “same old.”

If you went to Content Marketing World, what were your biggest takeaways? If you didn’t go, I hope I get to see you there next year (tenth anniversary!). If I can help in any way to make that happen, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Comment below or shoot me a message on Twitter (@jeremybednarski). Thanks for reading my recap!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Get Live Updates of Content Marketing World 2019 in Cleveland


Hello, content marketers! Year #9!  Content Marketing World is invading downtown Cleveland! Welcome all. I can't wait to catch up with old friends and meet new friends. I know the idea of networking is intimidating to a lot of people. Here are some of my tips (published by Content Marketing World) that might help:

Content Marketing World Community Tips: Professional Networking

As always, I'll also be posting quite a bit on social media. Whether you're not able to make it and want to follow along or if you're there and want to see what's going on in other sessions, I want to make it easy for you to follow me. 

Here are links to my social media profiles. Feel free to follow me on any or all of them (during and after the conference):
My schedule is below so you can see what sessions I'm in and will be posting about and the times. This year was one of the hardest in choosing sessions. There are so many great speakers! The schedule is highly subject to change. If you're at the conference, please come up and say hi or send me messages.

Tuesday, Sept. 3
  • 7pm: Opening Night Reception at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Wednesday, Sept. 4
  • 8am: Welcome to Content Marketing World 2019 – Robert Rose and Stephanie Stahl 
  • 8:15am: Keynote – Marketing 2030 – Joe Pulizzi
  • 8:45am: Keynote – Getting the Green Light: How to Build Content People Say YES To – Tamsen Webster 
  • 10:15: The Galvanizing Story – Doug Kessler
  • 11:20am: The Secret Rule for Getting Massive Content Marketing Results in a Fraction of the Time - Andrew and Pete
  • 12:25pm: Seven Psychological Triggers Every Marketer Should Master – Daniel Codella
  • 2pm: Content Marketing Fitness – 10 Exercises to Build your Marketing Beach Body – Lee Odden
  • 3:05pm: The Future of Content Marketing is Voice and Smart Audio – How to Measure Success with this New Technology – Mitch Joel
  • 4:15: Content Marketing Awards Presentations and Announcements
  • 4:45pm: Keynote: Everything Has Changed and Nothing Is Different – Scott Stratten
  • 5:15pm: Keynote: Henry Rollins
  • 6pm: Yappy Hour Cocktails and Networking
  • 8:30pm: CMWorld Evening Entertainment at Punch Bowl Social
Thursday, Sept. 5
  • 8:30am: Keynote: The Art of Storytelling: Stories Have the Ability to Empower Real Change – Kathy Button Bell
  • 9:00am: Keynote: Customer Acquisition Through Authentic Storytelling: Transforming Content into Commerce – Nilla Ali
  • 10:15am: How to Integrate Content Marketing with TV Commercials, PR, and Sponsorships – Jesper Laursen 
  • 11:20am: How to Build a Mega Personal Brand on LinkedIn on a Mini Budget – Michaela Alexis
  • 12:20pm: How Pop-Marketing Saved the World: Is Nostalgia Back from the Future? – Joe Cox and Adam Forstadt
  • 1:45pm:  185 Comics Walk into a Storytelling Bar… – Kathy Klotz-Guest
  • 2:50pm: Charting the Course to a Career in Content Marketing – Amy Higgins
  • 4:00pm: Closing Keynote with Mindy Kaling
Friday, Sept. 7
  • 8:00am: Guardians of Content Vol. 1: How to Scale B2B Influencer Content to Save the Galaxy – Ashley Zeckman
  • 9:00am: Binge Marketing: The Best Scenario for Building your Brand – Carlijn Postma
The schedule is subject to change. You never know when an opportunity may present itself! Thanks for following me and I hope you find the information I share to be valuable. As always, you can also check out my blog, Taking it Back (www.jeremybednarski.com). I'll have a recap post of my experience at Content Marketing World a few days after the event.